A welcome addition to the Oregon District’s
food chain

The Hunter Hoagie features chicken, steak, two cheeses, and more. Be sure to add the potato twists!

By Paula Johnson

Diner Divergence
I’ve written recently about what makes a good diner, and the value that places like diners have in modern American society, as a “third place” – one that exists as a space apart from home and work, and serves as a regular refuge and social connector. Diner 416, located in the Oregon District, might not be a classic diner in the way that most are, but it certainly succeeds brilliantly at what it does. While maintaining certain classic diner standards – like serving breakfast all the time – this is a diner that offers gluten-free baked goods – so not your grandpa’s diner. This place is, dare I say, a little trendy, not a word one normally applies to a diner. However, location is a huge factor. Let’s face it, if you open a diner in the Oregon, it’s probably going to need to be a cut above a greasy, hash slingin’, cup-a-joe joint. Diner 416 bows to their location in several ways, like the previously stated gluten-free baking, but also in making most everything in house, even down to the excellent blackberry jam made daily. There’s a walk up window and outdoor seating to handle the late night Oregon revelers, and the counter is equipped with phone charging stations. Tres Millennial friendly, non?

Owner Guy Fragmin, formerly in advertising sales, bought the space at 416 5th Street as an investment when it became available a few years ago, and renovated it to open a restaurant, his life long dream. A long way from his West Virginia roots, you’ll find a nod to Fragmin’s background in the Diner’s signature Pepperoni Rolls, which are served plain or dressed up with cheese, chili, or pizza sauce. PIP (Palate In Progress) and I were looking forward to trying them. Me especially, as a Pittsburgher. I grew up about an hour from the WVA border and am no stranger to pepperoni rolls. PIP, a pepperoni lover, was pumped. However, our hopes were dashed due to unfortunate timing. We visited the day after St Patrick’s Day. Diner 416 was clean out of them, along with waffles, another tragedy. They offer both Chicken and Waffles on the menu, and a sandwich made with waffles, something I would most definitely have tried. Our server was most apologetic, explaining the anomalous situation.

All was not lost, because the menu offered a lot of other choices, both classic and with a twist. Our server suggested starting with the soup of the day ($3.50), a potato leek, while we regrouped. Made in house and changing daily, this soup was homey and savory and a great start. Though there’s not a regular offering, with this as an example I would feel confident in ordering whatever the soup du jour might be. Even with breakfast, which was what I was there for. On the way to our booth, I spied a plate of jalapeno corn muffins, so I knew whatever breakfast I went with, one of these would
be alongside. 

Breakfast Bliss
I settled on corned beef hash and eggs ($10.00), which was offered that day as a special with complementary biscuits and gravy. The biscuits are not made in house, but are baked fresh, and were good and flaky. The sausage gravy, mild and on the sweet side, was generous with meat chunks. I prefer a bit more pepper, easily remedied with the table pepper shaker. The hash and eggs were nicely done (not overly salty or greasy as often is the case), though without the complimentary biscuits, perhaps not sufficient without toast, which didn’t appear to be offered. I did of course add the yummy little corn jalapeno muffin ($1.50) and the blackberry jam, a perfect crumbly sweet hot combination. It was altogether a tasty and satisfying breakfast that I would order again. I was also attracted to the Sweetie Omelet with bacon, tomato, cream cheese inside, and cheddar on top. “Get it with gravy if you like that kind of thing,” the menu advises. I plan to. I also like the sound of the Egg & Chive Scramble with eggs atop hash browns with chives and a dollop of sour cream. That’s on my breakfast bucket list.

Happy Hunting
PIP went late night munching with one of the half dozen hoagies offered, the Hunter Hoagie ($10.00), featuring marinated chicken and grilled steak, cheddar and provolone, lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo. (This as opposed to the Gatherer Hoagie, a vegetarian version with roasted red pepper, grilled onions, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce, and herbed mayo.) Also tempting was one of the burgers, the Sergeant Pepper with grilled peppers, pepper jack cheese and spicy mayo on a toasted bun sprinkled with fresh black pepper. The hoagie roll, often a sandwich’s downfall, was soft with a slight crust, and just fine, the meat and chicken sandwich fillings a tasty combo. PIP added potato twists ($1.50), big fat spiral fries not to be missed.

PIP and I left full and satisfied, agreeing that Diner 416 fills a hole in the Oregon eating scene I really hadn’t recognized was there till they filled it. I can’t wait to return to try the waffles – and of course those signature pepperoni rolls. I’ll be back long before next St. Paddy’s Day to check them out.

416 Diner, 416 E. Fifth St., 937.461.0416

Cuisine: 49% out of 50%
Value: 22% out of 25%
Service: 24% out of 25%
Total Rating Score: 95%

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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